Vinegar is becoming the ingredient of choice for all those who wish to use natural or frugal cleaners these days. However, while vinegar can be used to clean many different areas of your home it is not well suited to clean everything, especially your hardwood floors. In fact, cleaning hardwood floors with vinegar is a bad idea.
To understand the cleaning power of vinegar you need to know just a basic few things about the pH scale, which is a way of measuring the acidity or alkalinity of various liquids. A great amount of the cleaning power of various cleaners, such as baking soda, vinegar, or ammonia, for example, are based on their pH. The pH scale goes from 0-14, with a 7 being a neutral pH. A pH of less than 7 is acidic in nature, and the lower the number the more acidic something is. A pH of more than 7 is alkaline in nature, and the higher the number the more alkaline the substance. Those chemicals which are acidic are best at cleaning alkaline dirt, while those chemicals which are alkaline are best at cleaning acidic dirt. In other words, they clean their opposite best.
Vinegar is composed of approximately 5% acetic acid, which gives vinegar its mildly acidic nature. This acidity is what makes vinegar an excellent cleaner of several areas of your home where there is dirt that has an alkaline pH, such as soap scum and hard water spots. Unfortunately for vinegar, most of the dirt in our homes is acidic in nature, not alkaline. That means that vinegar does not clean it as well as an alkaline cleaner would. Further, vinegar does not cut grease as well as alkaline cleaners do, because grease and oil are made up of fatty acids. Finally, vinegar does not contain any surfactants, which is the ingredient in soaps and detergents which “grab” grease and oil and help wash them away from the item that needs to be cleaned.
When you want to clean your hardwood floors it is because they have dirt and grease on them which has accumulated from everyday living. The majority of this dirt and grease is acidic in nature, so reaching for vinegar as your cleaner of choice will not clean your floor that well. Instead, your floor may look clean the first few times you wash it with a vinegar and water solution, but that is not because the vinegar is an exceptionally good cleaner for this job. Instead, it will be because plain water itself can be an excellent solvent and can clean some dirt away from your hardwood floors. Of course, as you know, water cannot clean up any greasy dirt and oil on the floor, because oil and water don’t mix.
Overtime, if you continue to wash your hardwood floors with vinegar and water you will begin to notice your floors look dirtier and dirtier, because vinegar and water just cannot clean all the dirt and grease off your floors. Therefore, cleaning your hardwood floors with vinegar is a bad idea. Instead, you should use a solution of water and mild detergent, such as dishwashing liquid. A good homemade floor cleaner recipe is one bucket of warm water and 1-2 tablespoons of dishwashing liquid. With this cleaner you can clean your hardwood floors of the acidic dirt with the alkaline dishwashing liquid, and also use the dishwashing liquids surfactants to help grab the grease and rinse it away. Then, you will have clean hardwood floors, and still be saving money and being kinder to the environment.
Taylor Flanery writes at Household-Management-101.com, where one of the topics she discusses is the best method for cleaning your home. To learn even more about how to clean hardwood floors and tips for caring for hardwood floors check out her website.
By Taylor Flanery